I’m burning through my last cash on Groupon. Unfortunately, their communications with me over the past day, have shown to me a top-to-bottom gutting of the vision, caliber, and passion that the company once held.
A long time ago, several months ago, I purchased a Groupon for an auto detailing. I was hesitant, because I know how certain service-intensive Groupons can get flooded, and become impossible to schedule properly. Why did I buy into it? Because of the famous promise from Groupon’s CEO that, no matter what, unless it becomes a pattern of abuse, I could ask for my money back. With just a couple of emails, I would get a Groupon credit for my money back.
Well, after no less than nine attempts to get my car detailed within 30 days of when I called in, I threw in the towel on the last day of the Groupon. After several months, they were still booked out more than two months in advance.
So, I emailed Groupon asking for a refund. Here’s what I got back after detailing this:
I’m sorry to hear that you’re no longer interested in this Groupon. Groupons make great gifts, so if you don’t plan on using it yourself, feel free to give it to a worthy recipient. You can always give an unused Groupon to a friend unless otherwise specified in that deal’s Fine Print.
We do not issue refunds unless there is an unresolvable problem with the business, or if you had a bad experience using your Groupon. All requests are evaluated on a case by case basis.
If you need any further help, please let me know.
Groupon Customer Support
There’s so much wrong with this, I can’t even begin to describe how lousy this is. But, let’s pick this pre-written email apart.
First, the fact this message was so poorly conveyed, and yet clearly pre-written! Someone actually spent hours crafting this reply to be sent to many, many people, I have no doubt. A team of people, including a social strategist, psychologist, and a publicist probably sat in a room trying to come up with a caring email that tried its best to turn someone away from asking a second time for a refund.
The problem? It’s insulting at the same time. Starting with the first bolded sentence, obviously if someone has written in to complain about a Groupon, they are never, ever going to pass that Groupon on to someone else. If Groupon did indeed hire a psychologist to review the psychology of that notion, they deserve a refund request themselves. If you are ticked at a vendor not being able to schedule you (within months, or weeks, doesn’t matter really), are you ever going to pass the deal to someone else? God no. You don’t want to burden your friends with a business you are already aggravated at, even if it’s a good fit for them.
Then the second and third bold sentences, a whole different (and much worse) can of worms.
Groupon’s CEO champion(ed) the company’s willingness to refund any Groupon. Then they IPO. Now, it’s up to the discretion of your neighborhood Groupon Upper Party Decision Maker. Uh, no. That’s not what people think of when they think of Groupon. They think of the assurance that their concerns, and requests, should win the day.
The psychology of this concluding portion of the response is even more poisonous, only this time from the consumer towards Groupon! You’re not getting a refund unless we feel you deserve one. Screw whatever we championed our company on in the past. About the only thing worse they could have done, was mentioned their legal department somewhere in the message (and it wouldn’t surprise me if some draft of that methodically-prepared mass-emailed initial semi-autoreply didn’t have such a statement).
Previously, I was offered alternatives when a Groupon went bad. I was offered (in the two or three times previously when a Groupon did go bad), an ombudsman. Someone who was willing to even call the vendor and work things out… even use Groupon’s largess to force them to burn some midnight oil and recognize that they overbooked their own Groupon. Most importantly, it showed me, with actions, as a consumer that Groupon wanted to make things right.
Groupon made a “one-time exception” (their words) and gave me my money back, of course, as a Groupon store credit. That kind of “one-time exception” logic and mindset is such a departure from Groupon 1.0, that I don’t want to dignify today’s Groupon with a 2.0.
I realize with IPOs, companies change. Especially when IPOs don’t go well, companies can change for the worse. Playing financial advisor (which I can, thanks to my economics degree or two), Groupon has gone from about $30/share to $5/share… in just the past year. About $1/share above their 52 week low. That’s got to be depressing. But those are the times that leaders in a company need to raise their blood pressure, raise the battle cries, not admit defeat, and come roaring back with better products, and better customer service strategies.
For Groupon to turn things around, it needs to go back to its roots. And fast.